2017 Conference & Campout Preview

Heirloom vegetable tasting and seed swapping. Hay rides, bonfires, and a good, old-fashioned barn dance. All this—and more—is on tap for the 37th Annual Conference and Campout,  to be held July 14–16 at Heritage Farm in Decorah, Iowa. 

The Conference and Campout is one of Seed Savers  Exchange’s greatest traditions. Each July hundreds of seed savers and gardeners of all skill levels flock to scenic Heritage Farm in Northeast Iowa to network with one another and leaders in the movement to protect and share heirloom seeds; discuss issues involving seed and food security; and learn best practices for growing, harvesting, and storing food and seed crops.

For three days and two nights, attendees immerse themselves in the beauty of the region, with the option to camp right on the breathtaking 890-acre campus of Heritage Farm, where Seed Savers  Exchange maintains its collection of more than 25,000 varieties. 

This year’s event kicks off on Friday morning with a Heritage Farm Field Day, open to all (separate registration required). Conference events begin that evening; a special youth program is offered for those ages 6-13. Click here for a complete schedule of Conference & Campout events and registration.

2017 Conference & Campout Keynote Speakers

Joy Hought, executive director, Native Seeds/SEARCH 

Joy Hought leads Native Seeds/SEARCH’s efforts to conserve the rich agro-biodiversity of the arid Southwest. The nonprofit organization maintains 2,000 varieties of arid lands-adapted seeds in its seed bank in Tuscon, Arizona, and promotes the use of these ancient crops by distributing seeds to traditional communities and gardeners worldwide. Hought joined Native Seeds/SEARCH in 2012 as its educational coordinator before becoming collections manager in 2015. She holds a master’s degree in agroecology and plant breeding from the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and has also studied seed science, crop genetic resources, and plant breeding at the University of Copenhagen. 

Lee Reich, Ph.D., agricultural scientist and “farmdener” 

Lee Reich of New Paltz, New York, is an avid “farmdener” (more than a gardener, less than a farmer) who holds a master’s degree in soil science and a doctorate in horticulture. After working in plant and soil research with the USDA and Cornell University, he shifted gears and turned to writing, lecturing, and consulting. His books include A Northeast Gardener’s Year, The Pruning Book, Weedless Gardening, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Landscaping with Fruit, and Grow Fruit Naturally. He writes regularly for a number of gardening magazines, and his syndicated gardening column for the Associated Press appears biweekly from coast to coast.

Sean Sherman, owner/CEO, The Sioux Chef

Minneapolis-based chef Sean Sherman, Oglala Lakota, is a chef, educator, and entrepreneur with a strong commitment to his Native American community. Founder of The Sioux Chef—a catering and food-educating business—Sherman focuses on revitalizing indigenous food systems in a modern culinary context. In 2015, in partnership with the Little Earth Community of United Tribes in Minneapolis, he helped open the Tatanka Truck, which features “pre-contact” foods of the Dakota and Minnesota territories. A Seed Savers Exchange board member, Sherman has been featured in many articles and radio shows for his tireless efforts to make indigenous foods more accessible to all. 

Hank Will, Ph.D., editorial director, Ogden Publications 

An author, farmer, scientist, and business leader devoted to conservation and sustainable agriculture, Hank Will possesses decades of experience in the academic and publishing worlds, as well as a deep agricultural background. He has held various leadership and editorial roles at Ogden Publications for more than a decade—most recently serving as the company’s editorial director—and also serves as editor-in chief of Mother Earth News and Heirloom Gardener. A resident of Topeka, Kansas, Will earned a doctorate in plant biology from the University of Chicago and spent the first part of his career teaching biology at the collegiate level. He is the great-grandson of Oscar H. Will, founder of the legendary Oscar H. Will Seed Company.